With Russia conducting an endless series of military exercises and doing nothing to alleviate fears that it is poised to invade the Baltic States, the United Kingdom has become the latest of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) nations to send troops and war materiel to help bolster the organization’s most vulnerable members to try and avert a potential World War 3.
The Sun reported this week that the British Ministry of Defence announced at NATO headquarters in Brussels that the United Kingdom would be sending 800 troops to Estonia, the largest troop deployment to the Russian border since the end of the Cold War. Along with the troops, the British will also deploy tanks and drones.
The Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — have been imploring its NATO allies to provide military assistance to thwart a threatening Russia ever since the Russian Federation annexed Crimea, militarily occupying the territory that was recognized as part of Ukraine, in 2014. Military exercises being held just across the border have only accentuated the fears, and the recent transfer of nuclear missiles to just across the border from Lithuania seemed to make matters somewhat worse.
It also has not helped the Baltic State mindset that, as has been recounted by the Inquisitr, think tanks like the Atlantic Council have issued reports that have warned that a Russian invasion would likely begin with a swift military sweep with “no warning time” through the Baltic States and into neighboring Poland. And former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove warned in September that Russia’s military was more than capable of overwhelming an inadequately defended Europe.
Given that the Baltic States were once considered part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the predecessor of the Russian Federation, there are present fears that a re-militarized Russia might harbor dreams of re-assuming the boundaries of its former empire.
“I am confirming details today of our deployment as part of the forward presence in Estonia next year,” U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stated, “a full sized British battalion with light armour, Challenger 2 tanks, Warriors vehicles, French and Danish companies in support. That deployment will begin next spring [May].
Fallon said that the United Kingdom was “stepping up in NATO, beefing up the reassurance that we are able to offer. Although we are leaving the European Union, we will be doing more to help secure the eastern and southern flanks of NATO.”
The British deployment to Estonia comes as tensions have risen between the United States (also a member of NATO) and Russia in Syria, where both parties, supporting opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, have taken to accusing each other of various military and diplomatic wrongs. Russia has also made a rather ostentatious show of force, sending a fleet of ships to the Mediterranean in support of Syria.
The other two Baltic States, Lithuania and Latvia, have also received NATO reinforcements of late. Germany announced this week, according to Deutsche Welle, that it would be deploying Leopard 2 tanks to Lithuania, although it did not say how many. The tanks are in addition to the 650 troops promised earlier this year.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen defended the deployments as “exactly appropriate” and “defensive.” She added, “This is a clear signal that an attack on one NATO country will be considered an attack on all 28 NATO countries.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the overall mission in eastern Europe was a direct response to Russian aggression. “Russia is prepared to use its military power,” he said in Brussels. “It is necessary for NATO to answer that.”
Latvia is set to receive troops from five NATO nations by spring of next year, according to Radio Canada International. Albania, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia will join a battle group being organized by Canada.
According to Deutsche Welle, the NATO build-up in the Baltic States is mostly symbolic, especially given that Russia will retain an overwhelming military superiority in the region. The moves to bolster the region — and hopefully quell fears of an impending World War 3 — is anticipated to further antagonize Russia, whose Foreign Ministry stated earlier this year that NATO was reacting to a “nonexistent threat from the east.”
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